Getting Fit and Loving It!

I’ve had several of my professional colleagues who have expressed a desire to improve their level of fitness.  We all do it for different reasons.  Some of us want to feel  better and have more energy, some would like to look in the mirror and get a “hey, I haven’t looked this good since college” thought, and some just need a new and exciting challenge or goal.  For whatever reason, it is easy for me to say that triathlon and the associated sports will change their lives if they simply commit to a goal and plan.

My triplet brother came to me a little over a year ago and said that he would do an Ironman.  I thought, “Yeah right!”  You see, my brother was the computer type of us triplets.  When we were out being active, he was playing around with networks or talking geek talk.  We shared many friends, so I got it, but if you asked me 10 years ago if he would be an Ironman, I would have responded with a witty hell is frozen comment.

He ponied up the cash, and in spite of some emotional and logistics barriers, he did it.  And he finished his first Ironman in style, at Chattanooga 2016 where, due to the heat, there was approximately a 40% DNS/DNF rate.  I’d like to say it was my amazing coaching, but he did the work.  I simply provided the plan, advice, and a lot of support.  I met with him a few weeks ago for dinner and I was amazed by how confident and composed he was.  It was like my brother had been transformed!  The reality is that he set a goal and achieved it.  His [...]

Strength Training in Triathlon – A Hidden Treasure

Having coached, competed, and trained for many years now, I have learned so much.  Yet I have so much to learn.  Triathlon, unlike many other sports, is as complex as my wife.  Just kidding.  I am just scratching the surface of understanding her after 13 years of marriage, but I digress.  Not only do we need to understand 3 different unique sports, but we need to be aware of the muscle groups they utilize and how they interact.  For ultra events, the 4th discipline is nutrition, and lurking behind all of that is one of the most overlooked areas, other than nutrition, injury prevention/strength.

If you think about it, both running and biking both utilize many of the same muscles, most of them related to forward movement.  Heavy emphasis is placed on the quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles with lighter emphasis on the upper body for biking and running.  Swimming utilizes upper body strength and is heavy on the core and flexibility.  Very little emphasis is placed on the lateral (side movement) muscles.

One of the primary causes of injury is muscular imbalance.  Many of the first lessons for personal trainers and strength coaches surrounds the use of opposing muscle groups in a well rounded exercise.  Want to strengthen the biceps?  Also focus on the triceps or you’ll walk like Popeye.  Is that lower back hurting?  Focus on core abdominal strength to support the lower back.

The point is, really, that as triathletes, we are focused on forward momentum.  We need to strengthen our lateral and core muscles.  We see injuries oft times related to weak hip flexors and tight IT bands.  Our supporting ligaments and tendons for our ankles and knees have adapted to forward movement only creating an opening [...]

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    Functional Threshold Power – What is it and How Does it Help Me?

Functional Threshold Power – What is it and How Does it Help Me?

Functional Threshold Power (FTP)- What a mouthful!  Well, at least it’s a pretty cool sounding mouthful.  You may hear cyclists speak about this often.  If you’ve training by using FTP, you’re a believer.  If not, you’re missing out on one of the most influential and unknown aspects of training and output for beginner triathletes.

FTP is the maximum power output you can hold for 1 hr of effort.  It is measured in watts.  If you want an example as demonstrated in a French commercial, enjoy:

Wattage is power.  Various devices measure power output for cyclists.  Power meters can be built into the hubs of bikes, integrated into the cycling trainer, or integrated into the crank of the bicycle.  The number represents the amount of effort you are generating as evidenced by the power output.  Most would ask why speed wouldn’t be enough.  Great question!

Speed would be sufficient for effort output if all other factors were equal.  If we always rode on straight and level roads, road the exact same bikes, and had no wind to contend with or cyclists to draft off.  You may accomplish this on an indoor trainer, but the variables when on the road are very different each ride.

Power numbers take everything into account as they measure your output of effort regardless of the environment.

When I ask my athletes what is the single most influential factor in them improving their speed in a triathlon, most would point to the power meter.  I’d like to think they’d point at me as their coach, but let’s not be delusional.

One of the first tests I perform on each of my athletes, other than the VO2 test, is an FTP test.  Once I [...]

Running With Confidence

I’ve had many runners lately inquire regarding their running fitness and how they can improve.  While the holidays and off season will likely set us back a bit in our fitness, we can improve running form easily and start the training season right.

I’ve yet to have a runner with an injury throughout my years of coaching.  While I may be lucky as a coach, I believe in a simple training regimen and strict adherence to the basics.

Running Form

There are innumerable debates regarding running form.  Do we heel strike or not, what types of shoes to wear, orthodics, bare feet, etc.  I fall into the mid sole striking category.  I’ve found that it, combined with a running cadence of 180 bpm allows for the best form for injury prevention and easy speed.  I recently had an athlete complete a 5 hour marathon before coming to me for advice.  Once I completed his VO2 max assessment and performed a rudimentary running form analysis, I recommended two things and had him try it out on the treadmill.  He was a heel striker and had a very low cadence of around 120 bpm.  The long stride and poor form not only caused him to run slower, but let to early muscle fatigue in endurance races.

Once he corrected those two things, he was easily able to run 8 min miles for long durations with only 2 weeks of adaptation.

The easiest way to correct the deficiencies is to download a metronome app on your phone which beeps at 180 bpm.  While you’re changing your cadence, you listen to the beeps.  It will amaze you at how much different you feel and how much more solid you run.  Running at that [...]

By |November 27th, 2015|Gear, Run, Safety|0 Comments|

Recovery Tips and Techniques

For those of us doing an early season Ironman or other race this year, we’re now starting, or well into the build phases of our training.  If you’re like me, and have responsibilities during the day, that means 2 or 3 workouts on quality days.  That’s a lot of training stress!  If you’re like many others, you’re doing a Sat/Sun block and then hitting the work week again.

As overtraining can ruin the build for several months of your season, or cause a sub-optimal performance on your A race, it is essential that you are recovering properly.  Here are a few methods which I’ve found via research and practice to be most effective.  I would bore you with studies and scientific results, but I’ve found that they muddy the waters and that most studies weren’t intended to be applied to working athletes.  Plus, if you want to know, just Google it.  I’ll let Google consume your time.  This article is quick and easy.
Recovery Days
Training and timing is essential to building, peaking, and preventing overtraining syndrome or injury.  Recovery schedules depend on what phase you’re in.  I’ll paraphrase it as much as possible:
Base Phase (12-24 weeks)- Long and Steady with strength mingled.  During the base phase, you’re building your aerobic endurance.  Zone 1 or Zone 2 efforts increase blood flow, the number of mitochondria in your muscle systems, and the amount of oxidative enzymes in your blood.  You may wonder why you’re being given so many long and easy workouts during this phase.  Don’t worry.  Enjoy them!  Once you start building and peaking, you’ll miss them.
Build Phase (4-8 weeks)-  Higher Intensities and Bricks – The build phase is where your effort really ramps up.  There is a mix weighted toward the use of high [...]

Swimming Basics – How To Swim – Strong and Steady

One of the primary reasons I started the sport of triathlon was my fear of swimming distances.  I remember the first time I hopped into the pool with the intention of swimming distance.  50 yds later I was huffing and puffing.  As I didn’t have a coach at the time, I learned by trial, study, and error.  My breakthrough happened after a long workout culminated with a racquetball game with my wife.  I was beat.  I hadn’t done my swim, so I hopped into the pool.  1000 yds later I was ecstatic!  For some reason, it finally clicked.  I now believe that I simply just relaxed and stopped overthinking the swim allowing me to not go hypoxic and let things happen.

It’s easy as a beginner swimmer to get caught up in the intricacies of good form when it comes to swimming.  The result is bad form and a very slow and inefficient stroke.  I’ve read most every book out there, watched countless videos, learned from my fellow coaches and athletes.  I learn something new all of the time.  Run form and bike efficiency is fairly straight forward. Biking and running are also much easier to improve as most of us have learned those skills from childhood.

For those of you who would like some general swimming guidelines to think on, here they are.  I will likely go into more depth on each in future posts.   Also, feel free to ask any questions.

Swim Form:  Position in Water – My biggest problem when I was learning to swim was my position in the water.  We’ve all heard about the tug boat vs the sail boat analogy.  I was an oil tanker.  To swim efficiently, it is essential [...]

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    How to Eat Healthy and Enjoy It! A Few Healthy Eating Tips to Enhance Your Training.

How to Eat Healthy and Enjoy It! A Few Healthy Eating Tips to Enhance Your Training.

When I started doing triathlons, my mantra was that I exercise so that I can eat.  It worked well for me at the time.  I lost 40 pounds because of my change in lifestyle, but I knew I could do more.  I also find myself reading the various triathlete magazines out there which are filled with healthy recipes like the following:

Farmer’s Market Salad

Shredded Romaine, shredded radicchio, roasted corn kernels, fuji apples (diced), dried cranberries, roasted hazelnuts (chopped), avocado, lemon oregano and a dressing with a clove of garlic, fresh oregano, olive oil, egg yolks, and dijon.

I live in Texas… the home of steak and potatoes, and eating out.  I have a full time job.  My wife and I have 3 kids.  You might get the drift.  I’ll need a hefty raise and an extended 2 hours in my day to prepare meals of this caliber.  Many of my colleagues and athletes are in the same boat.  I am envious of those who can prepare and afford such delicious meals.   So for those of us who would like to eat healthy in a simple and effective manner, here are some tips.  (I am an advocate of the KISS philosophy.  Look it up if you don’t know it… and it doesn’t have anything to do with a man who paints his face)

Tip #1 – Don’t Drink Your Calories

This one is basically self explanatory.  A 32 oz soda has roughly 272 calories.  Orange juice, another culprit, has 110 calories per 8 oz, milk also has high calories at 150 and has a solid place in training efforts.  However, milk also has a lot of sugar, so drink wisely.    1 pound = 3200 calories (roughly)  If you [...]

By |November 18th, 2013|Nutrition, Training|0 Comments|

Tough Mudder Anyone !?!

So… have you heard the hype about mud runs?  I have and have avoided them as long as possible.  However, my wife is an avid fan of the mud.  Or should I say, she seems to get it all over me whenever we’re close to it >.<

We completed the Tough Mudder in Dallas this last weekend. and we started off by seeing this sign:

Long story short.  It was muddy!  ANDFUN!!!   Running with mud caked in every possible crevice was a new one.  We even gained several pounds in mud weight.  But every obstacle was a unique challenge and it was a blast to pit throw the thriathlete body into the fray.

This link is pretty accurate:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjkiebus/31-reasons-tough-mudder-races-are-for-crazy-people

The electricity freaked my wife out, but she did it and was amazing throughout the race.  We had big white smiles at the end.  All the whiter because we had been in the mud for so long.

The reason I post this is because triathletes tend to spend so much time training, that they forget to slow down a bit and smell the roses.  We sometimes worry so much about injury that we forget to have fun with our fitness.  I remember spending hours climbing, crawling, jumping, and running when I was a kid.  Life was a joy and the worries of life were far off in the horizon.  At times I wonder where all the fun went?

Now that Kona 2013 has been tackled and the holiday season is approaching, we need to each look at our training and remember to add some fun into it.  The serious part of us will remind us to focus on one discipline and improve it for next year, and that’s fine.  But that leaves [...]

How to Afford the Cost of an Ironman

I’ve just started coaching two athletes who are new to triathlon.  It has reminded me what it was like when I started this sport.  I remember quite clearly what I thought, and more importantly, what my wife thought when I decided that I wanted to purchase a triathlon bike.  I thought, “I’m spending how many thousands of dollars on a bike!?!”  My wife probably included a few other choice thoughts in that phrase as well.

I haven’t ever been a spendthrift, nor do we have the funds to be, but I haven’t balked at value either.  While our budget didn’t accommodate gear, and still doesn’t, my thoughts had to quickly change from what I couldn’t afford to how could I afford it.

There is a reason the average triathlete has an upper middle class income.  I read an article on squawkfox.com that summed it up well.  The URL is:

http://www.squawkfox.com/2008/02/13/the-cost-of-doing-an-ironman-triathlon/

Here is a cost tally of Ironman Triathlon:

Swim Gear
Budget Athlete
Big Spender

Wetsuit
$200
$800

Bathing Suit
$65 (X2)
$120 (X2)

Goggles
$15
$50

Pull Buoys
$20
$60

Flippers
$20
$75

Swim Caps
$3 each (X4)
$25 each (X4)

Body Glide
$15
$15

PoolPass
$100 per year
$500 per year

Master’s Swim
$60 per month
$100 per month

Budget Athlete Total: $1232
Big Spender Total: $3040

Bike Gear
Budget Athlete
Big Spender

Bike
$1500
$8000

Helmet
$80
$200

Cycling Shoes
$90
$350

Pedals
$55
$400

Bike Clothing
$500
$1000

Sunglasses
$25
$250

Gloves
$25
$100

Pump
$30
$125

Tools
$50
$300

Tubes
$2.50 each (X25)
$10 each (X25)

Tires
$40 each (X4)
$200 each (X4)

Chain Lube
$5 bottle
$10 bottle

Water Bottle
$3 each (X6)
$25 each (X6)

Club Rides
$60 membership
$250 membership

Budget Athlete Total: $2660.50
Big Spender Total: $12,185.00

Run Gear
Budget Athlete
Big Spender

Running Shoes
$80 (X4)
$200 (X4)

Run Clothing
$300
$1000

Run Club
$20 per month
$100 per month

Budget [...]

Running Injury Free – Stretching, Tips, and Techniques

So, we’re going into the off season and many of you, like me are going to focus on a discipline.   If you’re like the majority of triathletes, your eye is on a half or full marathon for that off season run training or race.  I’ve just signed up for the New Year’s Double.  It’s a two day event where you can choose from anywhere between a 5k to a marathon each day.  As I’m not a super over achiever, I’ve chosen to do a half marathon on New Year’s Eve, and a marathon on New Year’s Day.  My wife has made me commit to having a fun New Year’s Eve with her.  Like that would be tough!

I’ve also got several colleagues who want to lose some pounds and have committed to doing the half.  As they are doing a couch to half marathon plan, it is essential that they work on form, technique, and especially stretching.  I remember the shin splints, calf sprains, and plantar fasciitis all too well.  I wish I would’ve known these few tips when I was starting my Ironman journey.

So for all of you who want more improvement with less pain, this is well worth your time.

I stumbled across this video during my research into my illiotibial (IT) band difficulties after my first marathon.  It’s a presentation by Jeff Horowitz, author of Smarter Marathon Training.  (smartmarathontraining.com)   In this video, Jeff teaches  the basics of the running motion and the deficiencies in form and strength that lead to the most common injuries.   He also shares exercises and drills that athletes need to do to stay strong, fast and healthy. Also presented are:

•Causes of the most common running injuries

•Drills to improve form [...]

By |September 22nd, 2013|Efficiency, Run, Safety|0 Comments|